Dinah Cross James

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Dinah Cross James has been considered to have a “good sense of expressing the subconscious.” That is, many of her painted images are generated by allowing her intuitive powers to surface. She relies on spontaneity to create many of her images.

Dinah’s love of travel has also been a source of many diverse images in her work. She has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America and Mexico. A painting series resulted from a fascination with Mayan, Aztec and Incan ruins and geography. Dinah’s travels to Africa stimulated her interest in bone imagery. She did a series of elephant, cape buffalo and hippo skulls.

Several of her travels have taken her to places of geological phenomena. These include the Grand Canyon, Bhutan, Machu Picchu and Mt. St. Helens during the volcanic eruptions in 1980.

“Mt. St. Helens during its eruptive state was magnificent,” says Dinah. I was drawn there because of the raw creative energy taking place in the earthly upheaval. The experience of being inside the crater manifested the essence of creativity involving landslides, fumaroles, earthquakes and sudden explosive movement.”  The constant change in form and color inspired her work for years.

A graduate of Mills College, for over 30 years Dinah’s work is admired throughout the country in galleries, public and private collections, national magazine covers, and books.

In the early stages of her career she was a fashion illustrator in Oregon and has produced illustrations for Reader’s Digest, Sunset Magazine and children’s books. As can be seen from above, Dinah’s travels and life experiences have stimulated a diverse body of work. Her series of paintings include: Mt. St. Helens, Grand Canyon, Raggedy Ann, Light Energy, Mayan and Inca Ruins, Animal Skulls, Birds, and most recently the Flower Series. She is energized by working in different techniques and uses oil, monotype, watercolor, drawing and acrylic.

Although the majority of Dinah’s work is abstract, a continuous theme of her painting life has been country landscapes where she again uses her love of movement and color.

The inspiration of Dinah’s paintings has not always derived from pleasant experiences. Some, in detail and vast expansions of color, depict a time of intense sadness. In 1990, Dinah lost her only child, Natalia (Tali) in a Berkeley fire. She was a sophomore at U. C. Berkeley. This grievous period of her life, Dinah says, was underwritten in several of her paintings. To learn more about this period of Dinah’s life she suggests you read, When Life Changes Or You Wish It Would by Carol Adrianne. The final chapter recaps Dinah’s bereavement. Dinah began her Raggedy Ann series during Tali’s teen years. The sequence is a portrayal of Tali’s independent spirit and casts Raggedy Ann being blown down dark roads and flying in red and black skies. Nine months prior to Tali’s death Dinah began a series of birds, symbolizing her daughter. “The meaning of birds is spiritual freedom,” explains Dinah. “Tali was free.”

Within one month after the loss of Tali, Dinah was back in her studio. Her paintings changed from the dark earth tones she’d been using nine years previous to the loss of Tali. Dinah began to fill her palette with pinks, bright yellows, greens and turquoise hues, and, painting a series of birds, which, of course, is Tali.

An accomplished pianist, avid tennis player, and art instructor, Dinah says that solitude is very important to her. She loves to take long hikes, and uses this precious time for developing new ideas. One point she likes to ring into her student’s ears is to take a form and change it into as many shapes as they can – a method characteristic of the Dinah Cross James style.

Now residing in Napa Valley, California, Dinah continues to explore her inner world of abstract imagery. In addition she has recently completed several commissioned pieces recounting the glamour of the renowned vineyards. Her fascination, however, is not so much with the beauty of the grapes particularly, but rather the intensity and convergence of light as it casts colors and shadows upon the rich meadows and surrounding hillsides.

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